|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
The observance of birth-days was common in early times (Job 1:4, 13, 18). They were specially celebrated in the land of Egypt (Genesis 40:20). There is no recorded instance in Scripture of the celebration of birth-days among the Jews. On the occasion of Herod's birth-day John the Baptist was beheaded (Matthew 14:6).
Noah Webster's Dictionary
1. (n.) The day in which any person is born; day of origin or commencement.
2. (n.) The day of the month in which a person was born, in whatever succeeding year it may recur; the anniversary of one's birth.
3. (a.) of or pertaining to the day of birth, or its anniversary; as, birthday gifts or festivities.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(1) The custom of observing birthdays of great men, especially of kings, was widespread in ancient times (see Genesis 40:20, "the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday," etc.; compare 2 Maccabees 6:7; and Herod. ix0.11; in the New Testament, Matthew 14:6 Mark 6:21, "Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords," etc., i.e. Herod Antipas). Here we see the ancient custom reflected in two conspicuous instances centuries apart:
(a) Pharaoh, on his birthday "made a feast unto all his servants," etc., and
(b) Herod o n his birthday "made a supper to his lords, and the high captains," etc.
The King James Version (Matthew 14:6) has it "when Herod's birthday was kept," etc. The correct text here (Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort) has a very peculiar construction, but without material difference of meaning. The locative case gives the time of the principal action, "danced on Herod's birthday, when it occurred." The construction is not unexampled (see Jelf, section 699). This need not be called "a case absolute," though it corresponds to the Latin ablative (locative) absolute; and the Greek genitive absolute is itself not really "absolute," i.e. it is not cut loose from the rest of the construction, but gives some event to which the principal action is referred, for the indication of its circumstances.
(2) The term "birthday" (ta genesia) was applied also to the anniversary of a king's accession to the throne (Edersheim); but Wieseler's argument that such is the case here is not conclusive. It is easy to suppose that when Herod's birthday approached he was sojourning at the castle of Macherus, accompanied by leading military and civil officials of his dominions (Mark 6:21). Petty ruler as he was, not properly "king" at all, he affected kingly ways (compare Esther 5:3, 6; Esther 7:2).
(3) Genesia, which in Attic Greek means the commemoration of the dead, in later Greek is interchangeable with genethlia = "birthday celebrations"; and there is no good reason why the rendering of the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) here, "birthday," should not be right (See Swete on Mark 6:21, and HDB, under the word) For date of Christ's birth, etc., see JESUS CHRIST; CALENDAR, etc.
George B. Eager
Birthday (4 Occurrences)
Matthew 14:6 But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced among them and pleased Herod. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 6:21 Then a convenient day came, that Herod on his birthday made a supper for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. (WEB KJV WEY ASV BBE DBY YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Genesis 40:20 It happened the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants, and he lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. (WEB KJV JPS ASV BBE DBY YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Job 1:4 His sons went and held a feast in the house of each one on his birthday; and they sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. (WEB)